A New Chapter

I’ve been thinking a lot about dance lately.

It started before the cruise and has continued into this week.

I think the time away from competing, as difficult as it has been, has been good for me. I can genuinely say that I am enjoying being able to take the time to dig into the details of the routines and steps and movements that I am doing. I’ve been able to connect with my body and dance in a way I didn’t expect.

And I really really like it.

That’s not to say I don’t want to compete anymore, absolutely I do!

But I am not in a rush to do it. I also don’t find I have a need to do it as much as I felt I did before.

What I crave most from dance right now is the experience of it. Yes, competing is part of the experience, but it is no longer the main goal for me.

Right now, I want to see how far I can continue to develop and grow through dance. I want to keep developing those details, keep pushing myself, keep working to see what I can do.

I want to inspire others to dance and to be an example for other dancers to look up to. I have overcome a lot to be where I am right now and I know life is going to continue to throw obstacles at me, whether in dance or other areas of my life. That is just how life goes. By meeting those challenges, that is how we grow and get stronger.

I have grown a lot and come so far in dance, and there is so much more of this journey left.

But right now I feel my focus in dance needs a slightly different focus. I want to focus more on development.

For the past 8 months or so, my dance journey has been focused on me and my development. I haven’t really been able to do that since before I got sick because there was always a competition or test or performance I was preparing for. During that time, that prep and focus on tangible goals was what I needed.

I am surprised to discover that I don’t really need that sort of focus anymore.

I do still have a need and desire to compete and perform, but it is not as pressing. When I do it, I want to do it to show my progress, and mostly it’s to show that progress to myself. I feel that competitions, and by extension performance (I would much much rather compete than perform) are necessary to help give a limit to break up phases of development. They give a timeline for taking a step back, evaluating, and refocusing.

For the past year, I have enjoyed working with Boss more than I have during the 5 years prior to it. We really have come into a solid grove with how we work, and it really is at a higher level than I ever really thought possible, in consideration of the struggles we had trying to get and stay on the same page before that. There is an element of mutual respect I never expected.

It makes me optimistic and eager to see where Boss’s teaching will lead me next.

I am so grateful that I discovered pro/am, despite the unique challenges it presents. Without it, I likely would have stopped dancing a long time ago and I would definitely not be where I am now. The opportunity it provides me is unmatched.

I don’t know what the future holds. I expect at some point my career will take me to a new location and that will mean new dance experiences. For now, I intend to embrace the opportunities Boss gives me as best I can. I don’t know what all those opportunities will be, but I do know I will continue to get fitter, healthier and feel better — which finally brings me back full circle to the main reasons I started dancing in the first place. Before I found dance, I was very lost and broken.

Through dance I have become strong and confident. I would never have beaten cancer without it. Words cannot express my gratitude for those who have been part of my dance journey, especially Boss who never gave up on me, even when I seemed determine to give up on dance, myself, and to make it as difficult as possible.

This has been such a long time coming.

It’s time for a new chapter in dance for me. I am not quite sure where it will go, but I know it will be great and ideas are already forming. Once I can get them organized into some sort of sense, I will present them to Boss and see what he suggests.

I’m excited for this new chapter and where it will lead me.

Time to start writing.

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Blogger Appreciation Award

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I have recently been recognized for the Blogger Appreciation Award, and I want to take a moment to complete the rules of:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Use the award image.
  3. Write a paragraph of something positive about yourself.
  4. Nominate and notify as many bloggers as you wish.

So for number one, I was nominated by DWall of Facing Diagonal Wall , with an overwhelming description of my blog and what he likes about it. I think it was a bit overwhelming because as much as he enjoys and admires my blog, his blog was one of the first ballroom blogs I stumbled across and strongly contributed to me beginning to write here. When I found his blog, I read a few posts and related to it so much I went back to the beginning and read they entire blog in almost one sitting. Having been doing pro/am and experienced the franchise system, I understood a lot of what he was writing. At that time, I was going through chemo and it got me thinking that blogging might be as an outlet to air some of my frustrations, work through the stress and provide information for others struggling like I was. And so this blog was born.

Something positive about me–like DWall said in his post, I am a fighter. I have been through a lot and still keep smiling and pushing forward. When faced with choices between fighting on or giving up, I always choose fight, even if I have to change my tactics and retreat a little before finding that way forward.

There are two other bloggers I want to nominate, both of which also contributed to inspiring me to start my own blog and share my story. I follow both of them regularly and never miss a post.

The first is Adventures in the Dance Kingdom by The Thesbian. I love his cast of characters and lego figure photos he includes with every post. I can’t imagine the time it takes to plan and stage each photo. He writes about being a male amateur competitor and some of the quirks and quarks that come with that and shares his journey and interactions with other in his Kingdom in great detail. He has embarked on a new journey recently with his competing and I wish him and SparkleDancer luck!

The second is The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I really hope to meet this amazing lady some day. Her blog and experiences, while she focuses on a different style, very much echo my own. We both have moments of self-doubt we overcome and we both are struggling to pro/am competitors and all the challenges that includes. She is an avid writer (with 2 ballroom dance e-books out!), and very passionate about her blog and dancing. She is very open and regularly posts videos and photos, something that I am much less inclined to do. I love how she always puts herself out there.

I am so very humbled and encouraged to see that my writings (and occasional rants) are enjoyed by so many in so many ways. As things start to settle in my life (in theory), I plan to try to write a little more often as I continue my journey with Boss in dance and recovering and surviving. You all help keep me motivated and inspired.

Happy reading 🙂

Working out a plan

It seems things have settled.

But boy was it rocky to get there.

We have a plan.

I did go to my lesson on Wednesday, but I took some advice from the lovely Girl with the Tree Tattoo and put together my thoughts and frustrations and asked Boss for 5 minutes at the beginning of my lesson to just vent and let it all out.

It turned into a productive conversation that gave more clarity than previous conversations. One of the first things I mentioned was that I felt a little confused about what I was being told because at times it seemed contradictory. The biggest point to come out of that is that Boss is unable to support competing for at least 6 months to a year, and can’t say right now if he will return to competing or not after that.

Well, neither can I. Anything can happen in a year. I know that better than anyone. 2 weeks ago, while waiting for my biopsy result, I wasn’t sure if I would see my 40th birthday.

Life can change on a dime for all sorts of reasons.

All that to say that I know I won’t be competing with Boss for probably at least a year. After that, no one can really say what might be possible. Maybe he will be willing and able to compete, maybe he won’t.

Maybe I won’t be able to compete. You never know.

I don’t work with Boss because he was willing to be a warm body on a competition floor. While competing is one goal of mine, it is not the only one and it is not the most important one either. I work with him because he is able and willing to teach at the level I want and I can take lessons consistently throughout the week. He is also open to communicating, and does both long and short-term planning for lessons. Going to any other instructor, particularly commuting, eliminates a lot of those advantages, particularly being able to work with lessons throughout the week which is the most important thing for me.

Boss did suggest an option that I may consider in the future (for example if he is still unable to compete this time next year), but for now I don’t see it as necessary (not to mention it would be a bit costly).

After all of that, we did come to a plan that works.

I have no issues with not competing for 6 months to a year. I see it as an opportunity to work on my own technique and particularly focus on some details that require more in-depth and long term focus to sort out–things I can’t focus on while preparing to compete. In particular, trying to sort out the issue with my right foot turning out and lacking the strength to stay turned in. Other things include specific techniques in latin, CBMP in standard (I am just starting to scratch the surface on understanding that), and connection in latin.

Boss and I also discussed how I want to structure lessons for the next little while. We agreed that I would stick with 3 a week (as that’s the level I am happiest with), but two would be on things he wants to work on, but the third lesson would be directed by questions, topics that I want to work on (which I will provide to him in advance). I have already given him something for the first one.

My lessons in general will be focused more on individual conditioning and exercises for technique, although I have some routines that have details that need to be worked out. Now is an opportunity to do that. I see all the work I do now will only make my stronger in the future.

The most interesting thing about the discussion we had was that Boss told me he would like me to be more involved in my learning now as I have reached a point where I should be. It’s an interesting concept.

Finally, I had a couple ideas for evaluating progress without competing. First, as we are going to be doing some specific exercises (most from coaches), so I had the idea of filming me doing all the exercises (once we figure out what they will be), and then refilming them in 3 months to play side by side and see if there is any difference.

The second idea was that if I am not competing, then I am saving money. Something valuable I do with it that is still dance related (and cheaper than competing) is to do some coaching lessons. Already the last coach I worked with is going to be returning in February, so I have an opportunity to be able to afford more lessons with him, and Boss suggested a different coach for latin who may be possible to work with in the near-term (I have worked with her before and enjoyed it  a lot).

I am very glad and relieved to have a plan in place, for at least the next 6 months. In June, there will be a time to re-evaluate where everything is at, but until then I am happy with the plan. I have just over a week until my next surgery which will mean some brief time away from dancing. I am glad to have this sorted now.

Mixed Messages

“You can ask me any question about technique that you want.”

Except I can’t.

Boss said this last night at my lesson.  Two months ago he told me that I wasn’t allowed to ask any questions and that I should just do what he tells me, because he is the instructor and I am only the student.

(On a side note, he told me this at the same time he told me he is my instructor and not the Boss of my dancing.  I don’t think he realizes I am not his only student to refer to him this way and neither was I the first–its a habit I picked up from another of is students)

I don’t know how to ask questions without making him feel like I am undermining him as an instructor, though lord knows I have tried.

While its an interesting olive branch, history has shown me that whenever I ask questions it inevitably leads to conflict between us because one of 3 things happen (or sometimes all 3):

  1. He dismisses my question and says it either doesn’t matter or is something I ‘don’t need to worry about’.
  2. He assumes I am asking because I am trying to rush progress.
  3. He assumes that by asking I am really saying ‘Forget everything you think I should focus on and focus on only this instead because I want to’.

Very rarely is it numbers 2 or 3, and number 1 just leads me to frustration.  Whether a topic matters to him or not, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to me and frequently on my mind (and sometimes interfering with other things I am working on).

More often than not, the question comes because I have observed something and am curious about it. Sometimes its related to a small personal project I am working on and I just need a bit of direction to know where to start to begin to work it out for myself.  Sometimes it is related to something else I am working on that my mind has latched on to and won’t let go.

An example–right now one of my exercises is rumba basic and focusing on making sure I step, then settle.  The biggest issue with this is when I step back with my right foot–I have a tendency to step there already settled with no way else to move my hip.  Its taken a lot of experimentation, but slowly I have found a way to step back on a straight leg without having my hip settled. This has led me to consider other steps where I step backwards, and to wonder about how to actually do rumba steps backwards, something I don’t recall working on in international rumba (I did it a lot in rhythm, but very different technique).  Its drawn my attention to the issue to the point that when I do figures with multiple back steps (like aida or reverse top) I find myself distracted by noticing I am not stepping right and trying to figure out how to fix it.  I have tried just walking backwards, but for whatever reason I can’t figure it out–there seems to be a big piece I am missing. In fact, it feels as though what I am doing might lead to injury of my hip as some of the movements I am trying to do are sometimes painful.

But if I ask Boss about that, he will likely think I am asking him to change my exercises or what he wants me to focus on (currently it seems to be forward steps), or he will tell me its something I don’t need to worry about right now.

But on the other hand, he has mentioned several times that my back steps in latin are not good, and while watching videos he has pointed out how others move backwards.

So I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and mostly I just sort of wait and hope he will notice what is frustrating me and decide to address it.  Because I am not allowed to know his plan, I also have no way to know if my questions will just get naturally addressed when we get to that topic (if we get to that topic).

The rumba back steps are just one of the things I find myself wondering about and wanting to work on by myself.  I have time now since changing my practice schedule but I do feel like I don’t know where to start to work on them.  I am unsure enough that I am concerned I will teach myself wrong and develop bad habits or worse injure myself with bad technique.

But despite what Boss said at my lesson yesterday, I have been ‘bitten’ enough by questions being misinterpreted that I don’t feel I can ‘ask anything’ about technique–or anything really. I just don’t want to risk opening a giant can of worms.

So I wait and hope things will resolve themselves, and try not to let myself get too impatient or frustrated.

I can either ask questions or I can’t.

I don’t see how it can be both ways.

The Return and End of Smooth

Stopping dance proved to be disastrous for my health.

The day after I decided to stop, I had a complete breakdown and ended up at the ER.  I didn’t think it was possible to get worse than I was, but believe me, it was much much worse.  With everything else, the medication I was on gave me violent mood swings as levels of brain chemicals went up and down until a stable level was achieved.

It was the longest and most difficult 3 weeks of my life.  I really thought I might die, and to be honest, I wished the cancer had killed me.  It was a very very dark time.  On top of everything else, stopping dance actually made the grief I am going through over losing my fertility even more poignant, because I felt as though I had absolutely nothing left to hold on to. I had created a giant hole in my life that I could no longer fill and the little bit of joy and meaning I had in my life disappeared.

But somehow I got through it.  It took a lot of talk with mental health experts, time for medication to kick in and dose adjustments, and a complete reevaluation of my life and dance.

On top of the medical staff, I also (with their encouragement) talked with other dancers in the community (pro/am and amateur), non-dancers and Boss.  I took more than a week to go through and write out all of my thoughts on dance–what was important to me, what I wanted to do with dance, what I felt was missing, what needed to change, and where dance fit into my life–or where I wanted it to fit.  I wrote because that was the best way to express myself and let it all out.  It took me a week and was more than 10 pages, but it helped me find a place for dance in my life–even pro/am.

It took a while, because my energy levels have been quite non-existent and it took some lessons of just talking things through with Boss before I was ready to come back, and we were able to agree on changes that worked for both of us, and hopefully will help to address the issues I was struggling with.

There will be two significant changes to the structure of my lessons.  First, one lesson a week will be devoted to working on showcase/performance routines.  This is to give me an opportunity to be creative and collaborative in dance, something I was missing a lot.  Second, half a lesson every other week will be spent on ‘dance appreciation’.  Time to discuss dance, look at videos of different levels and styles, and develop my ability to think critically about dance and recognize various aspects of it.

My practice is changing as well.  I will still do some drilling, but it will not be the sole focus on my practice, it will be about 2/3rd of it.  The rest of the time will be spent on working through steps and routines as I want to.  The goal of that is to mix time spent drilling, which is more meditative, repetitive, and not requiring a lot of thought, with other aspects of dance that require me to ‘figure out’ and think through what I am working on.

I am also scaling back everything I am doing.  I will be focusing only on international style, and full gold routines for competing.  I will not be competing in smooth anymore.  Boss had wanted to turn the smooth routines into showcase routines, but to me it would be rubbing salt in the wound to work on the routines, but not be able to compete them.

And so ends smooth for me.

It is yet another casualty to cancer.  In all honesty, it hurts a lot, but at the same time I am grateful to still have some way to dance.  My relationships have also taken a huge loss and been damaged through the difficulties of the last month and I do fear they may never really mend.

I saw the surgeon and my hysterectomy will be likely end June/early July.  It will be 4-6 weeks of recovery off of dance and work.  It will be another slow and careful recovery.  The small silver lining is that with a little luck (and I am definitely due!) it will alleviate many of the symptoms from the hormone therapy as I will no longer need ovarian suppression and my hormone levels should fluctuate less allowing my mental health to stabilize.

In the meantime, I wait for a solid date for my surgery and attempt to hold my life together as best I can until then.  Every day is still a struggle, but the past week has seen me become a bit stronger and able to return to strength training.  This week allowed me to return to dance.

I am scared that everything will fall apart again before all of this is finished.  It’s taking a lot to control the depression and anxiety, and I am still in constant pain.  The hot flashes are happening in cycles indicating my ovaries are not as suppressed as they should be.  I have to have another shot in May, but the surgeon told me her goal is for it to be the last one. I truly hope so.

I am taking things one day at a time and trying to live my life as best I can.  I am so far able to work and keep up with it.  Strength training makes me feel better, not drained or exhausted and I am seeing genuine improvement in strength for the first time in almost a year.  In the middle of everything, I managed to finish the first 3 courses of my Masters, and am now working on my 4th.  So far, my lessons have been positive and also leave me feeling better than when I arrived.

I have slowly returned to myself and hope to maintain it.  I have lost much in the last month and I continue to grieve for my fertility–something I expect will continue until after the surgery when it is truly gone.  Things are rocky, difficult, but manageable.

At least for now.

I am back.

Back on the same page

When Boss and I clash, we tend to clash hard. But when we get past the clash, it’s pretty interesting what comes out of it.

Last night Boss and I sat down to discuss mainly the future for competing. It was a very productive conversation.

We discussed the value and merit of doing the local competition in January.  It’s a difficult call as there are advantages and disadvantages to doing it and in the end it comes down to what do I want to focus on now as far as routines.  If I do the competition in January, then it is an opportunity to solidify more the open routines and add the jive and paso routines I don’t yet have.  It is also an opportunity to put the open smooth routines on the floor.  I know I won’t be competing for a while after January, so it would be the last short-term opportunity to do so.

If I didn’t do the competition in January, then it would make more sense to put the open routines aside and begin working on closed gold routines (which is the plan after the comp in January).  As the open routines are not the most solid at the moment, putting them aside now would likely mean having to pick them up from scratch at a later time.  Considering the work I have already done on them, I am reluctant to do that.

So, after going through all the pros and cons and options, Boss and I agreed that doing the competition in January would be a good opportunity and an advantage.  I will be doing only open routines, and I will compete in 3 styles.

That means a lot of work needs to happen in smooth over the next few weeks.  We have 4 routines to put together and we have only worked on one once since I returned from overseas.  Boss will be adjusting the plan of my lessons over the next little while to give more focus on smooth and help bring them together.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation I seem to have agreed to perform one of the smooth routines in just over 2 weeks.  Not really sure how that happened–I think I was tricked somehow 🙂 . I don’t know which routine yet, but Boss suggested the simplest one.  All we have to do now is figure out which one that is.  I had a look at the videos of them last night and actually suggested the waltz.  I don’t think it’s the simplest to put together (I think foxtrot is), but I think it works better with the season and focusing on it will make it a very strong start to smooth multi-dances.  I will see what Boss thinks about that.

We discussed a few changes for my latin routines as I had made some small suggestions over the weekend.  Boss seems to like them, so we will see how they will go.

He also surprised me by making some suggestions for ways we could focus a little bit on fitness and general conditioning for dance at the end of lessons.  After the conversation we had last week, I really didn’t expect any sort of suggestion or further discussion on this, but I guess Boss took some time to think about what I had said and reconsidered his position.  It will be interesting to see what comes of his ideas.

We also talked a little bit about the plan for after the competition in January.  It will be a period of adjustment as I get used to being a student on top of balancing work and dance.  I think Boss expects I will be doing less dance and less focused, but I am not quite sure I agree.  I know there will be some changes I will have to make, but I also know that dance is one of my escapes and stress reliefs and that fitting school around dance will only be a benefit to school.  That said, we will see how it goes.

We are going to talk more about competing in the new year after the competition in January, but I have made a decision to prepare, commit to and focus on a large competition overseas at the end of August.  I am not going to give more details now, but a competition goal like this is something that I really need to give me something big to look forward to.  Boss is very excited about the idea and I hope that other people will want to join us.  I don’t know right now if I will do any other competitions before this one, but it is going to be the main goal in the new year.  I am eager to work out the details some more.

I am having a difficult day again today with the reduction in medication.  It’s been a very rough day and I have been quite light headed and nauseous.  I did go to the gym and that made me feel a little bit better, and I am going to try to practice tonight (although it remains to be seen if I will be able to as the world keeps spinning a little unexpectedly).  I talked to the pharmacist yesterday and all I can do is keep fighting my way through these symptoms until I adjust or go back to my previous dose.  If anything, the side effects and difficulties I am experiencing now cement my determination to get this drug completely out of my system.  It’s just a very difficult battle and my body still hasn’t adjusted to the reduction (which according to the pharmacist is not surprising and it might take a week).

I am so torn about this.  On the one hand, I know I should give my body and mind a break–it is trying very hard to adjust to being without a chemical it became accustomed to having.  On the other, I need to push my way through it to maintain my mental and emotional health.  I am making some concessions for the adjustment, but I am trying not to cut back too much on my activity–as I said it does seem to help some even though it is difficult.  I already missed one lesson and practice this week due to this, I don’t want to miss more. At least every other day I feel ‘normal’.

I will have a competitive practice this weekend and I hope it will be productive.

Communication and Resolution

I have been a little quiet lately.

There has been a lot going on, and I wanted to give it some time to be resolved before I posted.

I don’t think there exists a relationship in the world that is without conflict and certainly the pro/am student/teacher relationship is one of the most difficult to navigate at times.

There is large power imbalance inherent in this relationship as there is money involved, but also because on top of being a student/teacher relationship it is also a partnership as you compete together.

Communication can be tricky as each half of the relationship has their own thoughts and ideas about what is necessary, as well as their own desires and goals.  Sometimes, in communicating those things misunderstandings occur and conflict and tension happens.  It’s a normal part of any relationship, especially when each party has so much invested in it.

Boss and I have been working and competing together for more than 3 years now.  It’s been a rough ride, but also rewarding.  When things go well, they go really well.  When conflict comes up, it’s usually pretty heated and stressful, and centred around misunderstandings in communication.

The past week has been one of those times.

For a few months now, Boss and I have been butting heads over the subject of competitive practices.  We both had different opinions on the purpose of these practices, their usefulness and above all their frequency.  On top of that, Boss had forgotten that before I went overseas he had told me we would practice on October 30th, and was surprised when I expected that practice to happen (and it didn’t).

One of the biggest problems with this is that even though we had different views on the practices, neither one of us was really communicating those views to each other.  Then, as things did or didn’t occur as we each expected, there was a lot of confusion and stress.

Last night, my lesson was not a lesson but a very heated discussion that finally resulted in what seems to be, at least I hope, a final resolution to the question of practices.  On top of discussing practices, we also worked through some of the underlying issues, one of which is communication.

Boss and I generally communicate a lot.  It’s very important to me, because of the amount of time, effort and money I invest in my dancing that I understand the big picture of what I am learning and how that contributes to my goals.  I am a very goal-oriented person and my goals help to motivate me and knowing how everything I am doing fits into the bigger picture helps me to feel comfortable with how much I am investing in my dancing.  It helps me to know that the investment is a good one that benefits me–my health, fitness and largely, my mental well-being.

Boss though finds my need for understanding unusual and at times difficult.  He does not know anyone who asks so many questions and needs to know the ‘why’ of what I am doing.  He does like that I am communicative as is shows how interested and committed I am to my dancing, but he often doesn’t see the point of providing context and my need for understanding.

We both constantly work on keeping a compromise about this, but like all compromises, it can be difficult.  Boss sometimes finds I over-explain things and I sometimes find that I am lacking context or that Boss is dismissive of my concerns.  But I think and hope that we are both learning and most certainly our communication has become more effective and efficient over the past 3 years than it was when we first started working together.

So, lots was worked out last night, or so it seemed.  My only disappointment is that it took more than a week for us to finally be able to resolve the issue and start talking to each other instead of at each other.

One good thing that seems to have come out of it is an agreement about practices and an understanding of what the goal of the practices is, and what the intentions are with them.  Boss finally told me that while he intends to do them as frequently as possible once I have my routines more in my feet, he doesn’t think it will be possible to do them every week.  But, he has said that on the weeks where we are unable to do the competitive rounds practice we will take time from the end of my lessons to run through the routines.  This makes perfect sense to me and I hope it will be put into practice.

I am glad to have that issue sorted and hopefully behind us.  It’s been something outstanding that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time, and really the only thing that has been causing friction between us.  With that behind us, I hope we can now keep moving forward with the momentum we seem to have developed.

I have asked Boss if we could discuss the competition in January.  I am open to considering it, but in order to commit to it I need to understand what the value of the competition would be, what the goals of the competition would be, and how it would be different from the last competition I did.  Before I got sick, I always had a very specific goal for each competition I did, and I chose competitions based on the goal I wanted to achieve and spread them out so that there was enough time between them for something new to be accomplished for each one.  After I got sick, the competitions I did were mainly for the sake of doing a competition–to get out on the floor–without anything specific or forward momentum.  I want to get away from that approach to competitions and get back to using competitions for the value they bring to my dancing beyond time on the floor.

Deflated

That is how I have been feeling the last couple days.

Since getting home from overseas, I have been working to make the most of the momentum I felt I gathered after the last competition and reset myself and get ready to prepare for the next competition in January.

Then I got an email from Boss two hours before what was supposed to be my first competition practice.  He said not only were we not going to practice that day, but that he had decided to only do 2 practices in November, one every other week, instead of every week. According to him, it was because I can’t do the complete routines on my own to the timing, and that I should essentially be grateful he was willing to do even two practices.

It was a badly worded email.  And the last thing I felt was grateful.

I was livid and angry.  I had spent most of the week looking forward to that practice and reviewing all my routines, seeing how they might go.  I was gathering tools and looking forward to putting the momentum I felt into action.  The one thing I wanted to improve before the next competition was my endurance and stamina when dancing in a couple, and having regular weekly round practice with Boss was the one thing I was looking forward to, in order to develop a way to consistently push and stretch my limits.

But it is not to be.

Among other things, I had no idea that Boss really doesn’t understand what is my main competition goal right now.  I tried to explain it, but whether it is a language thing, or he just doesn’t want to hear it, it’s fallen on deaf ears.

I even presented other options, such as doing lead/follow during the other practices until I have the routines better, or instead of doing practices every other week (which lacks consistency) waiting until the last two practices of the month.

But Boss doesn’t want to discuss it.  In fact, when I got to my lesson tonight, he told me that my goals were none of his concern, and why should he adjust himself because of what my goals are?

Basically, he told me I should just work on practicing more myself.  According to him, that is the complete solution.

But I fail to see how practicing by myself will improve my stamina in a couple.  Everything I do on my own requires twice as much effort when in a couple.  There is no way I can work at the same level on my own and push my limits to improve my endurance in a couple.

It’s like training to run by walking all the time.  I can walk all I want, but it is not going to improve my running.

Having those practices essentially taken away, and finding Boss had a complete lack of understanding of my competition goals right now literally deflated me.  I went from feeling positive and motivated back to feeling stuck like I was feeling before the last competition.

It might seem like a small thing, but at this point it is the only thing I want to focus on.

I have watched the videos from the last competition and the one thing that strikes me over and over is how much my stamina affected me.  Having to do single heats one after the other, I was done before the end of the first dance.  The multi-dances were awful.  I felt like all the work I had done while I sick was taken away from me because I didn’t have the endurance to maintain my usual level of dance. It felt terrible.

I don’t want to go through that again.

So, after a lot of thought both during my lesson and the practice after, I made a very tough decision.

I am not going to compete in January.  I don’t want to embarrass myself, or Boss by not being able to improve my stamina and endurance to allow me to dance at my best.  I have always pushed my hardest and danced my best at every competition until the last one, and I just couldn’t pull it together. I don’t want to go to that competition and again be essentially useless after 1 or 2 dances–especially in the multi-dances.  That’s not the dancer I am.

I would have less than 3 months until the next competition and with only an option of inconsistent round practice until then, I don’t see how my endurance is going to be able to get better.  Especially because I know that only doing the practices every other week will only stress and frustrate me further.

So I have also decided not to do anymore rounds practices until Boss decides I am ready to do them consistently.  And only at that point will I decide when to compete next.

I am also considering taking the month of December off of dance to give myself a break and perhaps focus on my fitness on my own.  I haven’t completely decided on that yet and will wait until closer to December and see what the holiday schedule is like.

This was an extremely hard decision for me, but given the options (or lack of them) I seem to be faced with, it is the best one for me.  I don’t want to go into another competition feeling I am less than prepared.  I could know all my routines forward backward and upsidedown, but it is not going to give me any more stamina to get through 3, 4, or 5-dance events.

I wish the issue of practices didn’t hang over me like such a black cloud.  My lessons themselves have been great lately and it seems even though I have only had 3 that they have been productive.  I started the new practice program today and I could already see some improvement in some of the steps I had been working on. But the practices are very important to me as a way to measure progress, build stamina, and put together everything from my lessons–but only when they are consistent.  I know from the past, that doing them every 2 or 3 weeks is just frustrating.

I also had a really interesting meeting with the rehabilitative specialist today, but I will post more about that tomorrow.  Long story short, my strength training and fitness program is going to have a significant change to better support dance.

I am feeling disappointed, but at the same time, it is like there is a bit of a load off. Perhaps I am just understanding what Boss has been trying to tell me all summer.  I am not ready for competitive practices.  And if I am not ready for practices, I am definitely not ready to compete.

It’s a hard lesson, but a necessary one.

My stamina and endurance are the biggest things that cancer took from me.  I want them back.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Post Comp

This will probably be the first post of a few as I work through all the usual post comp processes.

First, I was successful in achieving my goal of getting through all my dances.  It was close though.  I was coughing so hard after my solo I considered scratching the 5-dance.  Thankfully, with a lot of water, cough drops, decongestants and ibuprofen my lungs settled down and I was able to do the full scholarship without coughing, completing my goal.

My solo was hands down the high point of the day.  I felt good and relaxed going into it and it just clicked together.  It was one of those moments where the audience disappears and I was able to just enjoy the moment and performance.  Really strong comments from almost all the judges, and many people from the audience came up to me after to say how much they enjoyed it. My shining moment from the competition.  I posted the video on the Breast Cancer Ballroom Dancer facebook page if you would like to see it.

Next to the solo, it was probably the 5-dance scholarship that went the best.  Whether it was because I felt no pressure, or I was just determined to get it done, things seemed to click together a little bit for it.  That’s not to say it wasn’t hard.  I messed up the quickstep pretty good and almost tripped Boss, but I pulled it back together and was able to finish strong.

I got all of the routines on the floor .  They weren’t without mishaps, and watching the videos they are obviously new routines that still need some of the bugs worked out.  But what was good was that we were able to sort through and figure out what spots we should look at adjusting going forward, because they just don’t quite seem to work the way they were expected to.There is lots to work on before my next competition.

My placings were not great.  I was last in all of my contested heats except one.  It’s a little strange because while I didn’t expect to do well, I didn’t expect to be last either.  It’s been more than a year since I last competed and so much has changed, so I guess I really didn’t know what to expect, especially with new routines in a fairly new level for me (open silver). I am trying not to focus on it too much, but I do have to acknowledge to myself that I am disappointed with how I placed, but mostly because I am also disappointed with how I looked while dancing.

I know that I was giving my all and trying to pull everything together but I was finding myself a little distracted and unfocused.  I am sure the illness contributed to everything but in the end I felt heavy and slow.  When I see the videos, I see that reflected.  There is just some ‘oomph’ missing that I usually see in my dancing, and my dancing lacked the polish I usually like to bring to the floor.

I am also having a hard time reconciling how my body looks now.  If I had to choose a word, I would say ‘square’.  For whatever reason, I have lost a lot of the curviness I used to have before my surgery. My waist just seems to be lacking definition, so from my ribs to my hips I am almost the same size.  I am trying not to let it bother me, but clearly it does.  I only hope that as I lose more weight, things will distribute better and my curves will come back.

One thing I can definitely say is that this competition has given me the bit of the kick in the behind I have been needing.  I have been struggling to find some really strong motivation lately to keep me focused and zoned in.  Placing as I did at this competition and seeing the videos of my dancing seems to have done that.  I have a better idea of what I would like to see and do with my dancing for now, and that is probably the best thing about any competition.

I want to focus in on silver and open silver for a while, and I want to plan to do a large competition later next year to sort of finish it out.  Not sure if that completely ‘jives’ with what Boss is thinking, but I guess I will see.  He and I are going to sit down and go over things next week before I head overseas for work.

That is really my next project.  I leave on Thursday for 10 days overseas for work.  I am going somewhere I have never been before and I am nervous and excited at the same time.  I have 2 days to get everything together, but it also means a bit of an imposed break from dance.  I am thinking at this point a bit of a break and time for reflection might be a good thing.

Stamina and conditioning are two words I know will be centre of focus over the next little while.  Not just for dance, but in general.  I feel heavy and slow in all that I do and I am getting tired of it.  My stamina is affecting my ability to really do all I want to do and I want to work past it.  I keep reaching a ledge right now where I go from ‘ok’ to ‘limp noodle’ like a flip of a switch.  Part of it is still recovering from all my treatments (2 years is what the doctors say I should expect to struggle with fatigue, etc.), but part of it is so much time spent being unable to work at the level I was.  I see lots of hard work on cardio and endurance in the future.

Well, I will have to put this cold to be now.  I have an interview with The Dancing Housewife tomorrow, so I want to be on the ball for that.

I am sure I will have more to say in the next few days 🙂

Thank you all for your support as I prepared to get back on the floor for this competition!  I don’t usually post photos to the blog, but I will make an exception this time and roll back the curtain.  This is a photo of Boss and I being ‘very serious’ after the standard scholarship.  Love my new dresses from Spirals Designs!

ever-so-serious

Rumba

So here is another ‘keywords’ post, this time, about rumba.

My keywords for rumba are ‘mysterious’, ‘passionate’, ‘romantic’, ‘imaginative’, and ’emotional’.

But I need to explain a lot because my definition and use of the keywords is not what they suggest on the surface.

We are going to dive deep into rumba, be prepared!

My first warning is that most people probably won’t agree with how I look at rumba, but that is ok because most people aren’t me 🙂

Most people think of some sort of passionate romantic relationship when they think of rumba.  I, do not.  I tend to think bigger picture.  Perhaps the main reason is that I have never found myself romantically attracted to a partner, so it just hasn’t occurred to me to consider rumba in that context.

So what do I mean by ‘passionate’ and ‘romantic’ then?

The passion is not about a relationship between two people.  It is about two people sharing their passion for dance with each other.  ‘Romantic’ refers to 18th century romanticism, not cards and flowers.  It was a movement that was very focused on expression and aesthetic experience–whether good, bad, or in between.  It was very emotive.  The music of Beethoven is a prime example.

So now that I have explained some of the language, here is some context.

Rumba is about a mystery–the mystery of what the relationship between two people actually is.  They clearly enjoy each other’s company–but it should never be obvious exactly what is between them.  It should keep the audience guessing–Are they friends? Are they lovers? Are they something in between? How close are they?

For me that is where the magic of rumba is–it keeps me guessing and wondering or imagining what the back story could be.  There is passion involved, but it is the sharing of a similar passion-dance-not necessarily passion for each other.  Sharing any passion is emotional, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the emotion is romantic love.  There are many different degrees of love and passion and that is why I think there are so many different interpretations of rumba.  You don’t have to be in love with your partner to do it well–you need to be in love with dance and willing to share that.

The imaginative part comes from the mystery.  Because nothing is ever stated obviously, someone watching is free to imagine their own interpretation of what they are seeing.  That interpretation will be influenced by their own feelings and emotions at that moment in time.  They will see pieces of themselves in what they are watching.  Perhaps they are longing for a relationship themselves–so they may see a ‘longing’ in the dance.

You can’t force feed rumba to an audience, and I think when you try it shows and the beauty and magic of the dance itself is lost. That is when you start seeing too obvious ‘gaudy’ and raunchy rumbas that leave nothing to the imagination. Myself, I find those routines to be hard, harsh, and sometimes even embarrassing to watch.  I would much rather be waiting in anticipation and guessing than to have something like sex spelled out for me in dance.

I think of all the dances, rumba can be the most broad in interpretation because there is so much potential.  No one person approaches dance the same, so each half of a partnership brings their own expression, emotions and passion to the dance.  Because it is slow and controlled there is time to really ‘dig in’ to the rumba and create that air of mystery and passion that is so essential to the musicality of this dance.  I think the closest equivalent in Standard is Waltz.

I don’t think you have to be attracted to your partner to dance a strong expressive rumba.

I think you have to be attracted to dance and willing to share that passion with your partner (and those watching).

But, that is me 🙂